Published September 1, 2008
John McCain has taken pity on the weary millions of presidential campaign watchers and injected a wild card into the race for the home stretch. On Friday, McCain introduced his running mate, Sarah Palin, the relatively unknown governor of the biggest, yet least densely populated, state in the U.S.
The obvious subtext is that, if this were a normal presidential campaign, Ms. Palin wouldn’t have been considered. She has minimal gubernatorial experience and, before that, was mayor of Wasilla, a town of 6,715.
Recently, on Face the Nation, one notable Washington pundit had this to say about the selection of such a pick for the Vice Presidential spot:
"I think he's going to make an intensely political choice, not a governing choice. He's going to view this through the prism of a candidate, not through the prism of president; that is to say, he's going to pick somebody that he thinks will on the margin help him in a state like Indiana or Missouri or Virginia. He's not going to be thinking big and broad about the responsibilities of president.
"With all due respect again to Governor Palin, she's been a governor for two years; she's been able but undistinguished. I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that she's done.
"So if he were to pick Governor Palin, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, 'You know what? I'm really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of the United States.'"
Actually, I lied. That was Karl Rove talking about Tim Kaine as a potential Obama pick for VP. But he unwittingly made all the important points against his party's pick of Ms. Palin. She was an "intensely political choice," pandering insultingly to women in hopes that they'll overlook all of Ms. Palin's positions on the issues and merely regard her gender. She has no distinguished record that qualifies her to fill in as President in any of the likely scenarios that play out given McCain's health risks and advanced age.
Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers summed up the problem thus, "McCain had to protect his reputation as an opponent of status quo Washington. He had to pick someone with the shortest Washington résumé. He did that. He picked someone the right wing is going to be happy about. But it’s a gamble. The question is, what does it do to the argument that Obama’s not ready?"
On the talk-show circuit Sunday, Rudy Giuliani gave a preview of how the Republicans are going to attempt to answer this question over the coming weeks, "She had to make decisions. All Senator Obama has had to do is talk. That's all he does." Joe Lieberman went one laughable step further with this line, "[It's] a little bit like opening a door and letting some fresh Alaska air into Washington."
In his Sunday column, New York Times columnist Frank Rich posits the most likely candidate-in-waiting was Democrat turncoat Joe Lieberman himself. "The main reason McCain knuckled under to the religious right by picking Palin is that he actually believes there’s a large army of embittered Hillary loyalists who will vote for a hard-line conservative simply because she’s a woman. That’s what happens when you listen to the TV news echo chamber."
Columnist Gail Collins speaks to the feminist viewpoint I've heard many of my female friends locally say, "This year, Hillary Clinton took things to a whole new level. She didn’t run for president as a symbol but as the best-prepared candidate in the Democratic pack. Whether you liked her or not, she convinced the nation that women could be qualified to both run the country and be commander in chief. That was an enormous breakthrough, and Palin's nomination feels, in comparison, like a step back."
The talking heads have been attempting to hammer home what they hope will be the defining image of Sarah Palin as "reformer" and someone who has "taken on the oil industry." Of course, as someone who favors drilling in ANWAR and who doesn't admit climate change is man-made, it's hard to understand just how she is differentiating herself from the interests of those oil companies, despite apparently successfully pushing their corporate taxes upwards (according to her Wikipeda profile).
So, McCain has at least made things interesting again, though not as interesting as if he had chosen say, Michael Palin as a running mate. Nevertheless, the home stretch is in sight. And, if you're as tired of the election as my wife is, both of those developments are welcome.
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